Graham Cleghorn.victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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NZ Herald
February 19 2004

NZ man gets 20 years for raping maids
by Bronwyn Sloan in Phnom Penh

A New Zealander charged with rape and illegal possession of a weapon has been jailed for 20 years by a Cambodian court.

Siem Reap Municipal Court has found Graham Robert Cleghorn, 57, guilty of repeatedly raping five former employees aged between 15 and 19.

Cleghorn was sentenced to 20 years jail and ordered to pay US$2000 ($2800) compensation to each girl's family. The girls had requested between US$5000 and US$10,000 each.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Plang Chlam ruled that Cleghorn would serve an additional two years for each girl he failed to compensate financially.

Court prosecutor So Vat told the court the girls had been hired by Cleghorn's wife, Baut Toer, 25, as maids for US$20 per month, but that between 2001 and 2003 he had systematically sexually abused each of them, making his wife order them into his room to give him massage before sexually assaulting or raping them.

So Vat said the court would produce evidence that the girls were taken to a clinic every three months by Baut Toer and injected with hormones to stop them becoming pregnant.

Baut Toer was charged with procuring, but avoided jail, instead receiving a three-year sentence suspended for five years.

"Inside Mr Graham's house there were many young girls and Mr Graham had sex with all of them and they were all made available for massage in his room," So Vat told the court.

Cleghorn denied the charges, saying the girls had been offered money by the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre to complain about him.

The same non-government organisation brought charges of debauchery (the Cambodian name for the charge of paedophilia) against two Australians - Bart Lauwaert and Clinton Betterridge - in 2002 in the same northern Cambodian town.

Evidence produced in court included a jar of Vaseline the prosecution claimed was found in the house "without medical reason", and a pistol police said was found on Cleghorn's property after he was arrested last October. No bullets were found.

Medical evidence was tendered that the girls had been checked by a doctor and found to have shown evidence of sexual activity. No other forensic or medical evidence was offered.

Each girl stood in the rickety dock and repeated a story of coming to work for Cleghorn as a cleaner or cook but instead being called to his room by his wife soon after their arrival and forced to have sex with him.

Each said they stayed for a year or more in his employ because they were "scared to be without a job". They said Cleghorn would often pay them up to US$10 after sex, but sometimes paid them nothing.

Cleghorn has insisted throughout his detention that he was set up because he is one of only two foreign property owners in the tourist town near the world famous Angkor Wat temple complex, where he worked as a tour guide.

The other foreign property owner, Cleghorn's friend, Swiss hotelier Rudolph Knuchel, beat paedophilia charges brought against him by the crisis centre on appeal last year and is suing the organisation for defamation in a Swiss court.

Cleghorn has lived in Cambodia since 1990, and before that had lived in Cambodian refugee camps on the Thai border.

He formerly ran the Minefield Bar, but most recently had made a living by taking tourists to the ancient temples that lie less than a kilometre from his home in Phum Quien, just outside Siem Reap town.

"The prosecutor would like the court to believe that these girls would stay in my house and allow themselves to be raped every month for $20 but not to believe that they would stand in court and lie for $10,000. I think a bribe of $10,000 is enough to tempt anyone," Cleghorn told the court in an impassioned speech before the sentencing, referring to his claims that the crisis centre had promised the girls money for testifying against him.

"A mother who looked at the face of a man who had raped her daughters would look at him with hate. These women hang their heads in shame when they look at me.

"They did it because they are poor and want $10,000. The sad thing is, there is no money.

"The only thing they can get from me is to see me in jail."

Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre Siem Reap director Keat Nuon said after the verdict that it was a great day for justice. "He has hurt many children, and he should have faced this sentence a long time ago."

Cleghorn will appeal the charge in Phnom Penh's Court of Appeals.